kmapfner1_FREDERIC J. BROWNPOOLAFP via Getty Images_chinaUS Frederic J. Brown/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Is Climate Diplomacy Possible?

With the United States and China at loggerheads, the grand old style of international summitry is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the global effort to combat climate change. The world's response to the climate crisis will succeed or fail on the basis of national interests alone.

LONDON – Climate change is the ultimate test of whether it is possible for countries both to compete for global dominance and collaborate to save the world. If the United States and China cannot work together on this issue, they cannot work together anywhere. Together, the two powers are responsible for over 40% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Hence, many worry that without Sino-American cooperation to reduce emissions, no meaningful progress will be made. We will all be doomed. Even though both sides know that they must act rapidly to prevent a climate catastrophe, the latest evidence suggests that conventional diplomacy is not working.

In the first US-China meeting of the Biden era, in Alaska in March, China’s senior foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi, launched a tirade against US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after Blinken called out China’s human-rights record. Then, in April, Biden’s climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, became the first senior administration official to visit China, where he met with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. The two have talked more than a dozen times since, yet it is not clear that they have achieved anything.

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